Singer Tania Saleh grew up amid a civil war that robbed her of her childhood, of her friends and neighbors and of the Lebanon she so loved. For years, she has sung the pains of sectarian schisms.
"You Lebanese have created 10 or 12 gods ... You divided me. You aggravated me. You parceled me out and you became divided," one of her songs says, imagining a conversation with God. "He who wants to pray ... must understand that God, the creator, has not made one sect better than the other."
Based on a poem written in 1975, the year the war broke out, the lyrics still felt searing and relevant enough for Saleh to add to an album in 2017.
Now, the 50-year-old hopes younger Lebanese can make her country dance to a different tune, one that transcends sectarian divisions. She is inspired by the mosaic of protesters who have come together in the past weeks from across the religious, political and geographic spectrum, united in disdain for a political class they say has cheated them of a decent future.
"The new generation is not like us," she said. "We have seen too many tragedies and so we are scared."
The demonstrators have provided those eager to see the country move past its sectarian legacy with a glimpse of what can be. But Saleh says she has no illusions about how long that path will be. Those aspirations are increasingly being put to the test by a system that delicately balances among 18 officially recognized sectarian groups.
The system is locked into the country's politics. The posts of the president, prime minister and parliament speaker are given to the biggest communities — Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim and Shiite Muslim. Most political parties are explicitly based on sect, and politicians pass out patronage and jobs to their communities.
It is also engrained in society, where many fear domination by other sects and one sect's gain can be seen as another's loss.
Looming over everything is the fear new violence might erupt if anyone wrecks the balance.
That threat resonates less with a generation that has little or no memory of a war that ended in 1990. The protests erupted over proposed new taxes but snowballed into calls for the entire political elite to go. For them, sectarian power-sharing is bound together with corruption and mismanagement that has impoverished them and left infrastructure so decrepit that power outages hit every day.
Hiba Farhat, a 31-year-old Shiite protester, said politicians pit sects against each other so "people would say, 'Ok, I accept corruption and I accept this leader; I just need him to protect me from the other sect.'"
Slogans like "the era of sects has ended" and "a revolution against fear" are scrawled in graffiti and proclaimed on banners. At a recent protest, demonstrators poured into Beirut squares in response to calls to keep unified.
Wearing a flowing black robe and a light-colored scarf framing her face, 25-year-old Huda Wissam smiled and swayed to the tunes of national songs as others rhythmically stomped their feet. With her was her 15-year-old brother and 20-year-old sister.
"I am veiled and when I see a Christian smiling at me, I get reassured that we have shed off sectarianism," said Wissam, a Sunni Muslim. "The challenge is for us all to remain together, Christian, Muslim, Shiite or Sunni ... then we will succeed."
Her father, she said, wanted her to stay out of protests, warning, "This will lead to a civil war."
"He doesn't want his children to become victims for something that won't happen. He has given up, but we won't," she said. "I don't want to wait until I am my parents' age and then there would be nothing I can do."
On a recent night, a small group of protesters sat on a sidewalk by the bell tower of a church in the northern Beirut suburb of Jal el-Deeb and took stock of how far they have come.
"The grudges that they have planted in us, our generation has put an end to them. I no longer feel sectarianism. Lebanon comes first," Charbel Elie, 32, told the group.
He wanted to know what the protesters had gained.
"Today, we don't ask what sect you belong to and what area you're from," and fear of criticizing leaders has been broken, replied Nayla Geagea, an activist and lawyer. She walked them through constitutional steps to forming a new government.
A 75-year-old man in the circle spoke up to say he had no questions but wanted to apologize to the younger generation for the country they were inheriting.
"We will fix it, uncle," someone yelled.
But protesters have had to keep sectarianism from fragmenting their own ranks. Geagea pointed out that when the prime minister stepped down — one of the demands of protesters — some made it look like the demonstrators were targeting his Sunni community. "We have to defeat this rhetoric," she said.
Amid grumbling over roadblocks and fears of economic collapse, men shouting Shiite religious slogans and chants in support of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah confronted protesters in one instance.
Some Shiites who initially joined demonstrations have stayed away after Nasrallah — even as he expressed sympathy for protesters' demands — accused foreign powers of exploiting them to undermine Hezbollah and warned against dragging the country into civil war.
Tensions between opposing Christian factions have also run high. Some supporters of President Michel Aoun accuse rivals from the rightwing Lebanese Forces movement of seeking to topple him. The two sides fought each other brutally in the final years of the civil war.
Aoun backers held a demonstration to support him and the president has called for unity. "The sectarian system will not get toppled through protests," said one of them, 27-year-old Elias Khoury. "It will get toppled when the hearts, not the laws, change."
The two are tangled together — a social mentality clinging to sect and a political class whose power depends on sectarianism.
"When you ask for the dismantling of the political sectarian system ... you're basically asking the current political elite to commit group suicide. They're not going to do that," said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
The young "want basic, fundamental rights and for them they really have nothing to lose," she said. "They recognize that this system hasn't worked for their parents; it is not working for them."
Saleh, the singer, said she takes hope from a generation she feels is not as sectarian. Her son, she said, doesn't care to know the faith of his schoolmates.
Just like her art, her life has been colored by Lebanon's intricacies.
Her world changed at only six. The civil war broke out and school friends and neighbors started disappearing. The Christians fled to other areas. Born to a Sunni father and a Shiite mother, Saleh would go out sometimes with a cross dangling around her neck, a statement of defiance to the fighters who stole the normalcy of her life.
The war pitted Palestinians against Lebanese, Christians against Muslims, Christians against Christians and every other combination possible.
As battles raged, Saleh and her family left too, again and again and again. They bounced from home to home, escaped briefly to Kuwait. These memories are seared in her mind. Her mother begging armed men to let them drive through. Listening every day in Kuwait to iconic Lebanese singer Fairouz belt out "I love you, oh Lebanon."
"There is no hope for me to enjoy a proper country," Saleh said. "But the hope is for our kids and grandkids. Let them start now better than waiting for when it's too late."
Iran is acknowledging for the first time it has an open case before its Revolutionary Court over the 2007 disappearance of a former FBI agent on an unauthorized CIA mission to the country, renewing questions over what happened to him.
In a filing to the United Nations, Iran said the case over Robert Levinson was "on going," without elaborating.
It wasn't immediately clear how long the case had been open, nor the circumstances by which it started. However, it comes amid a renewed push to find him with an offer of $20 million for information from the Trump administration amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. over Tehran's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers. That's in addition to $5 million earlier offered by the FBI.
The Associated Press on Saturday obtained the text of Iran's filing to the U.N.'s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
"According to the last statement of Tehran's Justice Department, Mr. Robert Alan Levinson has an on going case in the Public Prosecution and Revolutionary Court of Tehran," the filing said.
It did not elaborate. Iran's Revolutionary Court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Iran's mission to the U.N. did not immediately respond to a request for comment and its state media has not acknowledged the case.
The Washington Post first reported on the ongoing case.
Levinson disappeared from Iran's Kish Island on March 9, 2007. For years, U.S. officials would only say that Levinson, a meticulous FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters, was working for a private firm on his trip.
In December 2013, the AP revealed Levinson in fact had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations. Levinson's family had received a $2.5 million annuity from the CIA in order to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.
Since his disappearance, the only photos and video of Levinson emerged in 2010 and 2011. He appeared gaunt and bearded with long hair, and was wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those worn by detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay.
The video, with a Pashtun wedding song popular in Afghanistan playing in the background, showed Levinson complaining of poor health.
Rumors about him have circulated for years, with one account claiming he was locked up in a Tehran prison run by Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and U.S. officials suggesting he may not be in Iran at all. Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive living in Iran who is wanted for the assassination of a former Iranian diplomat in Maryland in 1980, is the last known person to have seen Levinson before his disappearance. Iran has offered a series of contradictory statements about Levinson in the time since. It asked the U.N. group to close its investigation into Levinson in February, saying "no proof has been presented by the claimant in this case to prove the presence of the aforesaid in Iran's detention centres."
Iraqi medical officials say security forces have cleared a flashpoint bridge in Baghdad of anti-government protesters using stun grenades and tear gas, in clashes that are among the heaviest since the unrest began last month.
Saturday's confrontations at Sinak bridge pushed the demonstrators back to the nearby Khilani square where clashes wounded 35 people.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Protesters appeared to be regrouping to try forcing their way again across the bridge, which has seen daily clashes with security forces.
The bridge spans the Tigris and gives access to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government.
Anti-corruption protests and a heavy-handed security response have resulted so far in more than 250 deaths.
Iran is defending its decision to block an U.N. inspector from a nuclear site last week.
A spokesman for Iran's atomic agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said Saturday that the Iranian government "legally speaking" had done nothing wrong in blocking the female inspector from its Natanz nuclear facility on Oct. 28.
Iran alleges the inspector tested positive for suspected traces of explosive nitrates. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog has disputed the claim.
It marked the first known instance of Iran blocking an inspector amid tensions over its collapsing nuclear deal with world powers. The U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the deal over a year ago.
State TV carried Kamalvandi's remarks from the Fordo nuclear site. He said Iran hasn't imposed any restriction on inspections, but warned against using them for "sabotage and leaking information."
A Syrian protester was killed after he was run over by a Turkish military vehicle during a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in northeastern Syria on Friday, Kurdish forces and a Syria war monitoring group said.
The man was among a group of residents who had chased and pelted the convoy with shoes and stones, prompting Turkish troops to fire tear-gas to disperse the protesters. Ten people were hospitalized, according to the Rojava Information Center, an activist operated group in Kurdish-held areas.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said the man was run over in the village of Sarmasakh near the border by a Turkish vehicle which was conducting a joint patrol with the Russians — the third under a cease-fire deal brokered by Moscow that forced Kurdish fighters to withdraw from areas bordering Turkey.
The patrols are aimed at allowing Turkey to ensure that the Syrian Kurdish fighters, formerly allied with the U.S., have evacuated the border zone after America began pulling its troops out of northeastern Syria. The agreement with Russia — and a separate one with the U.S. — halted the Turkish invasion of Syria last month that targeted groups it considers a security threat for their links to a Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.
Videos circulating online Friday showed a group of men running after the Turkish-Russian vehicles as they drove, throwing stones at it. A man is seen trying to mount one of the vehicles and then the men can be heard shouting, apparently after the man is run over. Other videos from the area showed men, women and children pelting armored vehicles as they drove near a cemetery before speeding away.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian or Turkish military about the incident.
Turkey's Defense Ministry said the troops were patrolling a region between Qamishli and Derik, east of the Euphrates River. It said the patrols were being supported by drones, but provided no further details.
An Associated Press journalist saw four Turkish armored personnel carriers cross into Syria to join the Russian forces.
Mutafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, tweeted that Turkish troops fired tear gas on protesters in Derik, injuring 10 people. The town is controlled by SDF and American forces, but the Turkish troops were passing through on the patrol.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan complained this week that Syrian Kurdish fighters were still present in areas along the border, despite the separate agreements with Russia and the United States.
Erdogan also said Turkish troops were being attacked by some Syrian Kurdish fighters from areas they had retreated to, adding that Turkey would not "remain a spectator" to these assaults.
The U.N. said on Friday that 92 civilians have died so far as a result of Turkey's incursion into northern Syria. Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, said the death toll was based on "verified incidents" that included to Nov. 5.
Also in northern Syria, the Observatory and the Thiqa news agency, an activist collective, said on Friday a suicide attacker detonated a truck outside a police station in the northern town of Rai that is controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.
The Observatory said the blast killed three people, while Thiqa reported two civilian deaths.
Bombings in areas held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters in northern Syria are not uncommon. Last week, 13 people were killed in a blast in the town of Tal Abyad, which Turkish troops and opposition fighters they back captured last month.